March 29, 2011

The NBA's Social Network



It's no secret anymore how much social networks have changed our lives. There are about 500 million people on Facebook - in India, we started a little late, but we quickly caught up and take over, becoming one of the biggest Facebook users in the world.

But we are still a little slower to catch on Twitter, which is kind of a pity, because nothing bridges the gap between news-maker, news-sharer, and news-reader than Twitter does. There are about 140 million tweets sent per day between millions more.

And one of the fascinating developments of the ever-twittering world is the bridging gap between the Big Guys and the Little Ones. Now, within an instant, the average Ramu on his PC in Faridabad can tell 50 Cent how awful his last album was, and have 50 Cent give a derogatory response, too.

So of course, for NBA fans, Twitter has helped to create a new kind of relationship and understanding with otherwise unapproachable superstars that live the grind of 82-game-plus-more NBA seasons half-way across the world. Not all the information has been useful or interesting (it rarely is), but through Twitter, I've learnt what certain NBA players think of their opponents, how certain players would like to address any controversy or speculation regarding themselves, their favourite foods, and mostly, a whole bunch of other incoherent garble.

The first person I followed on Twitter when I created my own account was Shaquille O'Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ), and it has been a very wise decision. Shaq has described himself as being 'VERY QUOTATIOUS, I PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF SHAQNESS', and really, if you don't know what means, then you are probably at the right place, because I'm not sure Shaq knows either. Like you would expect him to be, Shaq is funny and memorable, posting pictures of himself dressed up in drag for Halloween, inviting fans in Boston to come and hang out with him, or praising Justin Bieber.

Basketball's biggest superstars are surprisingly non-existent on social networking. Kobe Bryant doesn't have an account yet. LeBron does, humbly calling himself @KingJames, but he, too, is mostly politically correct about things. I say mostly, because every once in a while, LeBron does pull a Homer - like the time he told followers to shower their hate - and they did - and then he went ahead and retweeted their comments to everyone else. His finest/worst moment so far came when he published the famous 'karma' tweet. The Cavs had lost by a franchise-worst 55 points to the Lakers, embarrasingly, when LeBron wrote "Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!" Karma, indeed was a bitch, since LeBron was injured a game later and Miami went on to lose four straight.

My favourite NBA-twitterer - by FAR - is Ron Artest (@ronartest). On a daily basis, Ron Ron pretty much confirms what everyone already thinks - that he is in serious, serious need of his psychiatrist! It is an unpredictable ride daily as Artest boasts about Laker winning streaks ("do u like to win? then u must be a lakers fan"), promotes his music ("Go Loco"), writes nonsensical stuff that he probably thinks of on a daily basis ("i love my pet penguin", "I can't believe I jumped in the air like a silly pirate on drugs") or talking about his favourite eating joint ("It's. 1:30 In n out is open Wozeers").

But behind all the crazy, Ron Ron does some good, too. He is known to randomely hand out tickets to his fans in LA, those who responded fastest to him on Twitter. He even follows some of his fans.

Late last night, Artest made his India connect, asking Abhishek Bachan (@juniorbachan) if he is a Laker fan after Abhishek had a Twitter conversation with Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson).

Speaking of Magic, the Laker great is pretty active on Twitter, too, giving his commentary on NBA/NCAA games, and awkwardly, adding his Dove Men Care sponsorship with each Tweet.

Another fairly regular tweeter is Steve Nash (@SteveNash) - the legendary Suns point guard proves that he is pretty much as cool in real life as you would expect him to be. Nash talks about random day-to-day issues or makes references to his favourite football team, the Tottenham Hotspurs.

As a Knick fan, I follow a bunch of New York players, including Amare Stoudemire (@Amareisreal) and new Knick Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony). The most interesting Knick, though, is rookie Landry Fields (@landryfields). Fields has posted refreshingly honest thoughts and funny videos to quickly become a Twitter Superstar for the Knicks.

One of the NBA's rising young stars is Kevin Durant (@KDthunderup), who used his Twitter status to make the biggest statement in the smallest way in the last off-season, when he wrote "Exstension for 5 more years wit the thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal, this a blessing!"

Amongst the other big NBA stars, the likes of Dwyane Wade (@dwadeofficial), Chris Bosh (@chrisbosh), Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward), Pau Gasol (@paugasol), Chris Paul (@oneandonelycp3), Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo), Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34), Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin), Kevin Love (@kevinlove), and Russel Westbrook (@russwest44)) are also on Twitter. Besides of promoting non-NBA events that may be involved in, or talking about their family and friends, the players mostly just check in and out with their fans, conversing with a few every now and then and helping to build a unique player-fan relationship.

And of course, there are the NBA's cast-aways, but via Twitter, you can be sure they are never too far. Allen Iverson (@alleniverson) makes sure to check in from Turkey occasionally, and regularly proving to the universe that, like his shooting outbursts, he has a hard time keeping the 140-character limit in check, too. From China, I here from Stephon Marbury (@StephonMarbury) sometimes, who makes sure to drop his words of positivity and optimism every now and then.

The one person that I really wish was back on social networking is Gilbert Arenas. Before anyone else did it, Arenas was the first NBA superstar to really establish the one-on-one connect with the fans through his blog. Twitter was to become the perfect platform form the Former Agent 0's hilarious musings, before his account was deleted last year, around the same time he was suspended by the NBA for the whole guns-in-the-locker incident. His tweets during the ordeal only added fuel to the fire, and suddenly, like Arenas, the account was suspended indefinitely too. Arenas has returned since, but his Twitter presence hasn't.

Of course, if you prefer to follow your favourite teams, they all have twitter accounts too: From the Lakers (@Lakers), to the Celtics (@celtics) to the Heat (@MiamiHEAT) and the Knicks (@thenyknicks) - and of course, the NBA (@NBA) is on Twitter, too!

This is just a start. You can literally go crazy looking for your favourite teams, players, news feeds, reporters, or fake-player pages. For Indian basketball fans, I'm going to leave you with some important few feeds to follow:
- Basketball Federation of India: @BFIbasketball
- Troy Justice, Director of Basketball Operations, NBA India: @troyjustice
- JD Basketball / JD Walsh, American basketball coach in India: @jdbasketball


And of course, yours truly, for getting the finest information about basketball, India, NBA, philosophy, and a bunch of other things, you need to follow the Hoopistani (@Hoopistani) twitter feed. It will make your life better, I swear it. Or at least more interesting.

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